Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What’s your attitude toward mystery?
Natural scientists aren’t frustrated by what they don’t know, nor dismissive toward what they don’t fully understand. Instead, they’re intrigued by it and determined to probe deeper. They lean into the mysteries of the natural world with a beautiful combination of childlike wonder and adult intellect. Perhaps we could learn something from them about how to approach the mysteries of the faith.
Now, the mysteries of faith are not exactly the same as the mysteries of nature. They aren’t simply unknown; they pertain to the relationship between the infinite God and the finite world. But that just means we should lean into them with even more childlike wonder and adult intellect!
Think of the disciples of John the Baptist, who approached Jesus and asked: “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to look for someone else?” Jesus didn’t simply give them the answer. He told them to think about what they had heard and seen for themselves. “Go back and tell John what you have heard and seen…” Jesus invited them to lean into the mystery of His identity with their own observation and understanding.
That’s been God’s approach to humanity all through salvation history. God’s own life is an infinite mystery. That doesn’t mean it’s something we can never know — it means that it’s something we can never stop exploring. God has been revealing the mystery of His life to us all through history and within each of our own lives. But He takes one step at a time; His goal is to draw us in, not to force us on.
One key aspect of God’s way of revealing Himself concerns time. Think of it as music. Music happens when notes are played over time. If you take all the notes in a piece of music and play them all at once — well, it’s no longer music. Appreciating the music requires having the patience to let it play out over time.
Something similar is true of the mystery of salvation — God sharing our life, and offering us a share in His life. God revealed that mystery over time, like a beautiful piece of music, and invites us more deeply into it over the course of our lives. Appreciating the mystery requires patience that goes with God’s sense of time.
The Church calendar shifts gears on December 17. It pulls us into a different sense of time, to help us with the final week of preparation for Christmas. The Gospel for December 17 is, not surprisingly, the genealogy of Jesus — which focuses on how God’s plans are worked out through time.
Let’s lean into that sense of time in these last days before Christmas. If we do nothing but celebrate Christmas this week, then we play that one note over and over — and risk missing out on the music God is playing for us. Let the days unfold this week. Let God’s plan unfold in your life. The anticipation and sense of longing is part of what God offers us these days. If we stay with Him, with awe and wonder and patience and determination, there’s no end to the things He wants to show us.